Green, Lean and Mean: MITEF Tackles Green Startup Alliances

Uncategorized Posted Oct 14, 2011 by Kevin Kosh

As it is often wont to do, the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge presented yet another interesting and informative discussion last night, graciously hosted in the offices of the British Consulate.

Driving Green Growth Through Strategic Partnerships, gathered an impressive panel that represented a diverse set of perspectives from both sides of the equation, but an enthusiastically unified view of the huge opportunity for green startups.

Panelists included:

With the panel moderator, Bic Stevens of Stevens Capital Advisors, providing stark data on the dearth of venture capital investment in green startups versus other technology categories, the discussion centered around the critical role of strategic partnerships. Strategics have the ability to not only provide capital, but infrastructure and expertise that can be found nowhere else.

The discussion ranged from the merits of alliances, to the partner evaluation process, to the key factors for mutual value as a result of partnership. The panelists underscored the benefits of partner scale and credibility, and the ability to actually build a market.

Reflecting the significant presence of entrepreneurs in audience, the Q&A portion seemed to dwell on fears of large partners draining value and ideas from startups. Speaking from a wealth of experience, the panelists gave their perspectives on how to structure a partnership for a win-win, including:

  • Clear definition and understanding of the strategic needs of both sides
  • Finding an enabling an internal advocate
  • Creative structuring of investment terms to equalize risk
  • Conviction in driving the right deal, even if it takes time and multiple potential partners

To the last point, an audience member’s question about the dangers of a potential strategic partner resolving to “do it themselves,” provided some humor via one the best panelist quips of the night:

“Elephants aren’t good entrepreneurs. They may try, but they are likely to fall short.”